RPW Column: Flach Expects To Win; Haas Gathers Notes; Dowling Learning Dirt; Storylines From Lebanon Valley Saturday

Column By: BOBBY CHALMERS / RPW – WEST LEBANON, NY – Saturday night looked like it might have been the night Mark Flach Jr. returned to victory lane.

He drove himself right to the front of the field in the Modified main event at the Lebanon Valley Speedway, putting an amazing slidejob on leader Olden Dwyer on a lap five restart.

Unfortunately, that lead was short-lived and the handling on Flach’s #22 Teo Pro Car went away. The former Modified track champion was relegated to a sixth place finish when the 30 laps were completed.

This isn’t something that is sitting well with Flach. He knows he can win. He wants to win. He expects to win, and since his horrifying crash at Land of Legends Raceway back in 2013, returning to victory lane has been all he thinks about.

“Ever since the doctors told me no, my main focus has always been to prove him wrong,” Flach said. “I didn’t just want to strap in a car. I wanted to be competitive. I wanted to win again.”

Flach’s return to the seat near the end of the 2020 provided some encouraging results, including a runner-up finish to Rob Pitcher on the final night of the Valley’s season. That gave him hope that 2021 would be good.

While he’s had fast cars in the first two races this year, his results haven’t been where he wants them to be. Last Saturday, Flach captured his best finish but he knows there’s still more work to do.

“We just lost bite,” he said. “We’ve been setting the car up for the track to be a certain way. However, for both races, it hasn’t been like that so with the way we have things, it’s been hold on.”

Will the past two weeks force the Madsen Motorsports team to rethink their strategy, or will they stay the course?

“We might make some adjustments to the car for this week,” he said. “I’m thinking it’ll be a couple more weeks before the track gets to where our setup will be good. We’re trying hard and we’re close but we’re missing a small piece to get back to victory lane.”

Has Mark let himself think about what it would be like to win again?

“I’ve thought about it,” he said. “I don’t really know how it’ll be. I imagine it’ll be a wave of emotions to know we didn’t let the Canandaigua accident beat us. However, I guess we’ll have to knock one off to find out.”

HAAS’ TESTING…

If you looked at Brett Haas’ car on Saturday night, you wouldn’t have noticed anything different.

With the left front wheel of his #55 hiked up high coming off the corners, the sophomore Big Block pilot didn’t show any difference than opening night. In fact, he was able to secure his second top 10 of the season and sits solidly seventh in points.

However, if you look closer, you’d see Haas was actually running the car he competes on the Short Track Super Series with.

“We wanted to get some notes before we run the Memorial Day Mr. DIRT Track race with that car,” Haas said. “It’s our Big Block Short Track Super Series Car, but we wanted to try a few things.”

Did it work?

“We ended up with some good ideas,” he said. “Now we can also transfer them to our Valley car.”

Why wouldn’t the Haas team use their regular Valley combination for the Super DIRTcar Series event on May 31st?

“The engine combination, while it’s legal to run here, won’t be for the DIRTcar Series,” he said. “So, we’ll run our travel car.”

Why not change the engine in the Valley car and compete with that?

“Our Lebanon piece is a few years older,” he said. “Both are pretty much identical anyways, so it would just be a lot of work to switch motors. We’re just keeping the combinations the way they are.”

How did the car work on Saturday night? While he got some good notes, was Haas happy with it?

“The car was good,” he said. “The brakes started to fade towards the end and I think we were a bit under geared for the way the track was. However, I was very happy with how the car went.”

“CHASING” EXPERIENCE…

Saturday night was the first feature for asphalt Modified transplant Chase Dowling behind the wheel of the Kevin Starchek-owned #9 Bicknell.

Dowling was another driver who didn’t get the finish he was hoping for, but was very encouraged with how things went as a whole.

“Saturday was a good day of learning,” Dowling said. “I learned a lot from practice and the heat race that transferred to the feature.”

How did things feel in the 30-lap main event?

“We passed a lot of cars early on,” he said. “I felt confident until we got into the accident in turn four.”

Chase was involved in an incident that also collected John Ruchel. Both drivers were okay but were done for the evening.

“Someone checked up in front of me,” he said. “Unfortunately, somebody behind us didn’t.”

When the night was over, Dowling was credited with a 24th place finish. Will he be back this week to try again?

“No, I can’t run this weekend,” he said. “I’ll be running Stafford on Friday and the Tri Track Open Modified Series event at Star Speedway in New Hampshire On Saturday. However, I’ll be there in two weeks.”

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